How to Spot Your Competitors and Spy on Their Marketing Tactics

Spying on your competitors makes sense — a lot of sense, actually.

Unlike observing the marketing strategies of some random popular company that has nothing to do with the dynamics of your business, you would do well to observe your direct/indirect competitors since their effective marketing tactics have context, relevance, and a strong connection to the dynamics of your business.

Think about this. Let’s say you’re the owner of Coca Cola.

Would you rather study Toyota’s marketing strategies or Pepsi-Cola’s?

You chose the latter, right? After all, it makes perfect sense for you to do so.

In this guide, we’re going to look into how you can uncover your competitors’ marketing strategies. That way, you can benchmark, improve, and get rid of their “wasted” marketing efforts.

Do you like what you’re reading so far?

Let’s hop right in.

1. Find out Who Your Competitors Are

To find out who you’re up against in our niche, there are two things you need to know and ask yourself. 

One is, What are the types of competitors I’m facing? The second is, Who are they exactly, and how and where can I find them?

Let’s tackle the first question. You have two types of competitors: direct and indirect.

Your direct competitors are those that offer the same products and services you do. Indirect competitors are those that target the same audience as yours but sell a different kind of product.

Keep in mind that it’s crucial for you to segregate your competition so you’ll be able to give the specific competitor you’re studying its due relevance and weight.

When it comes to product development, you can look into your direct competitors.

When it comes to improving your content, you can check out your indirect competitors on top of studying your direct competitors.

Now, to find out specifically who your competitors are and where you can find them, there are several online tools that you can use online.

You can check out alternativeto.net to find out who your direct competitors are. You only need to type in your product and the tool searches for those companies offering “alternatives” to your product.

You can also do a quick search in Google using this search query.

  • Top insert your product type providers (ex. Top Construction Software Providers)
  • Best insert your product type company (ex. Best Construction Software Company)

Here’s what Google came up with when I typed in the first search query.

Spying on your competitors
Pretty neat, huh?

You should see a couple of your direct competitors in the search results. (Just like what the screenshot above shows.)

Q& A forums like Quora and Blurtit also provide answers to people’s questions like, “what are alternatives to…” “where can I find the best…” or “who is the best seller of…”

These avenues not only allow you to find out who your competitors are but also subtly promote your e-commerce business as an answer to some of the questions of your prospective customers.

You can even take a more personal approach such as rolling out on-site surveys and asking them which products and solutions they use, or if they know of products similar to yours. If you’re struggling with the task of finding who your competitors are, then you can also hire a freelancer. Working with freelancers can do you a lot of wonders since you won’t have to deal with menial tasks. You can focus on the more important parts of your business.

The great news is, it’s insanely easy to find marketing professionals who can help you with your competitor research. Just by going to job posting platforms like Freelancemyway, and typing in your keywords, you’d be able to find highly-skilled marketers in minutes.

Spying on your competitors
With the help of freelancers, you’ll be able to uncover who your direct and indirect competitors are without having to spend countless hours looking at your computer screen.

2. Visit Q&A and Online Forums

Online reviews can be as good as personal recommendations and have a huge influence on people’s decision to buy. 

The catch is, you need to know where your target audiences are getting these online recommendations. 

Aside from directly visiting their websites, your would-be customers go to online communities such as Quora, Reddit, and other social media platforms to ask for recommendations.  

For example, customers can post a question on Quora to find out what other users have to say. 

Let’s say they want to find out the best car speaker brands. Once they type in their question, they will get a slew of answers from other users.  

Spying on your competitors
Spying on your competitors
You can use this strategy to know what people are saying about your competitors — their best features, product quality, discounts, and more. 

If your competitors respond to the questions posed by the community, pay close attention to the thread.

Take note of how they address the questions and concerns, since, in most cases, your competitors will reveal the tricks they have up their sleeve just to diffuse whatever issues are raised.

3. Consult Your Customers

If you’d like to know who your competitors are, you can ask your customers — it’s that simple.

You can do this as you request feedback from them.

You can use software and survey solutions like SurveyMonkey, which allows you to create forms for your customer feedback (among other things).

It’s also one way of getting insights from your customers about the brands and products they were previously considering or using before they chose to purchase from you. 

Spying on your competitors
Once you have this information, you can then start researching your competitors’ marketing tactics to check how they were able to reach your target customers.

Leverage your customer satisfaction data to help determine the factors that influence their decisions to buy, what needs improvement, the services, and products that they’d like to see on your shelves, and more.

4. Spy on your competitor’s social media strategy

Social media marketing is one of the essential tools that both offline and online businesses use to help boost sales, customer engagement, brand awareness, and website traffic.

The key is to make sure that your marketing materials and strategies are spot-on.

For example, if you’re planning on doing Youtube marketing, then you need to make sure that your thumbnail sizes are correct, the length of your videos are just enough, the keywords you’ll add in your video titles and descriptions make sense, etc.

Of course, this is where spying on your competitors come in.

To figure out what types of videos resonate with your audience, you can:

Step 1: Visit your competitors’ YT channel.

Step 2: Check out which among their videos have the most engagement.

Step 3: Look for commonalities on how their best performing videos are created.

As you follow these steps, you should be able to gain insight, one way or the other, on what captivates your audience.

If your primary social media platform is Twitter, then you can use TweetReach to view your competitors’ social media performance on Twitter. 

Spying on your competitors
 

Spying on your competitors
The tool shows your competitors’ estimated reach and exposure.

You’ll also have an idea of what tweets, hashtags, mentions, etc., that your competitors are using to their advantage.

Once you gain access to these details, all you need to do is to reverse-engineer what your competitors are doing.

If their tweet about “10 Ways to Make Money Online” gains traction, then you can do “30 Ways to Make Money from Home.” (Or something to that effect.)

With this strategy, you’ll have a better chance of getting positive results out of your tweets since your competitors’ tweet has already validated that your audience likes to learn about how to make money online.

Here’s a perspective: If you didn’t do your competitor research, then you’d have to spend time and resources doing research just to figure out what your audiences’ interests gravitate towards certain topics.

5. Study Search Results on Google

Although your indirect competitors are not selling the same products and services as you, they can still take away website traffic from your site that could potentially lead to more customers. 

Aside from doing keyword research using tools like Ubersuggest and KWFinder, you can go to the source, Google, to find the websites that publish content that is related to your business.   

Start by identifying the main keywords in your business and your value proposition.

You can then type in your keywords on Google’s search box. These are some of the pertinent details that you’ll see: 

  • The websites ranking in the search results.
  • Related searches that other users who look for your keywords type into Google if they don’t find what they were looking for.
  • The websites that used paid ads.
  • The places where you can shop online, including product images.
  • The closest physical stores of your searched keywords and whether or not they have a functional e-commerce website.

As you can probably imagine, the insights you can get from analyzing the search results are wondrous.
Here’s an example.

Spying on your competitors
In the screenshot, I typed in “construction software” as an example.

Looking at the search results, you can already see some strategies that the competing companies are using to pull the customers.

Some are offering a free demo and consultation. Others a 7-day free trial. And there are those who are using the “cloud-based” angle to promote their product — which makes a lot of sense, by the way.

When you run your marketing campaigns, you can consider these strategies to come up with more relevant and enticing marketing materials to influence your audience to start buying from you.

Conclusion

When you spy on your competitors, not only will you be able to gain truckloads of insights about the best ways to market your business, but you can even avoid spending thousands of dollars for market research.

Just look at what your competitors are doing, pay close attention to what’s working and what isn’t, then improve the things that are working and avoid the things that are flopping.

It’s that simple… but it sure is effective.

If there are strategies or ideas that you’d like to share with our readers on how to spy on their competitors, then feel free to add them in the comments section below. Cheers!

Mark Thomasson
Mark is a biz-dev hero at Invoicebus - a simple invoicing service that gets your invoices paid faster. He passionately blogs on topics that help small biz owners succeed in their business. He is also a lifelong learner who practices mindfulness and enjoys long walks in nature more than anything else.
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